Sunderland boss gives interesting insight into his tactical plan for Edouard Michut and the club's big summer decision
It was both the technique and the composure that made it, gathering Abdoullah Ba's pass and shifting out from his feet with his first touch, and firing a low drive into the far corner with his second. Sheffield United goalkeeper Wes Foderingham had no chance.
It was the latest step forward for the 20-year-old who has, as Mowbray had predicted before the World Cup break, been able in the second half of the season to make an impression on Wearside after injury and an understandable period of adaptation hampered the first.
The PSG loanee is still searching for consistency and still learning about his new environment, joking to Mowbray after his first trip to Millwall that you 'don't get much of that in Ligue 1'.
As for Mowbray, he has quickly learned not to worry too much about Michut's sometimes slightly sullen demeanour. The gifted midfielder has told his head coach that is merely 'typically French'.
The head coach sees the potential and moving forward, he's eager to set up his side so we can see more of that impressive finishing ability teased in that Sheffield United defeat.
“He has an opinion of how he is as a footballer," Mowbray said.
"You can sometimes see me screaming at him from the sidelines, and he’s looking over and I can see him thinking, ‘Shut up’. Listen, I don’t mind that. I like personality in footballers. I like footballers to have a character, as long as they’re respectful and understand that when we’re talking about football, it’s never personal. If there’s things he has to improve on, then he has to work hard on them. "He can’t just say, ‘I don’t believe, I don’t understand’, because he’ll find that if he doesn’t work on the things we want him to work on, he won’t play. But he’s a good lad – I like Edouard – and he’s a good footballer.
"Let’s see where the future is for him," Mowbray added.
"Hopefully, he cements his place in the team and everybody talks about him as we move forward because he can see pictures on the pitch. He showed the other night that he’s a very good finisher. I’ve been saying for a while that in training, he smashes it in the net on a regular basis. We have to get him further forward, and we’re trying to develop systems where we can do that. That could be bringing the opposite side full-back inside to play as a screening midfielder, which pushes him higher, almost as a ‘high eight’ to play in and around the box. Hopefully, he’ll score goals and become the footballer that he wants to be.”
Mowbray was speaking after the 1-1 draw with Luton Town, another game in which particularly in the first half, Michut showed he is beginning to get to grips with the physical demands of the second tier.
“I tell him he has to fight with the body he’s got," Mowbray said.
"That’s what he has to do. It’s no good him saying, ‘Well I can’t play against that big six foot four midfield player, he’s too strong’. He has to do it. He has to fight with his body, and to be fair to him, he does put his body in.
"If he does that and he gets knocked over, then it’s a foul and he gets a free-kick and on we play. He’s got that quality where he can almost slither under a player with a bigger frame and get past him, and obviously once he’s on the ball, we know he’s a very talented boy."
Mowbray has hinted that he is likely to rotate his side more regularly through the final eight games as thoughts turn towards next season, but there will be plenty of game time for Michut as the club weigh up a big summer decision.
Under the terms of the loan deal agreed in the summer they have an option-to-buy clause, reported by transfer insider Fabrizio Romano to be an initial €2.5 million with future add-ons.
It is a fee more than reflective of Michut's talent, but would also if correct be the biggest fee the new regime have spent.
Mowbray says it will not be his decision, and says the decision will be dependent on the hierarchy's view of Michut's potential and future value.
"I don't think that's my decision, it's up to those who make that decision on whatever that number might be, is he contributing enough or has he got the potential to contribute enough to be an asset for the football club," Mowbray said.
"For me, I just work with the footballers and wring as much as they growth out of them as we can. Edouard is showing that he is a good footballer. Where might he be a bit down the line? Will the division be easier for him because he's adapted? Only time will tell.
"If that decision has to be made in the summer then it won't be mine, the club will have to decide whether they see a player who can turn millions into multi-millions somewhere in the future. First and foremost Edouard has to stay in the team, at the moment he's getting an opportunity which is great because he's showing everyone what he can do."